Our first speaker, Zdzis?aw Mach, is a well travelled and well trained sociologist, with experience in the USA, Britain and Poland.
Jan Sokol ia a philosopher at Charles University, Prague, a member of the interim technical government, and former minister of Education and Science of the Czech Republic.
How are Universities from Central and Eastern Europe to respond to the new challenges? In a nutshell, I would dare say by assuming their own future proudly and in their own way, by refusing charity and by opposing the lurking brain drain, especially to the aggressively-recruiting USA.
I am pleased to address such a distinguished audience. I would like to share with you a few thoughts on the current situation in the region east of Berlin. Let me first say that the Universities of Eastern and Central Europe are in search of new identities in their societies, a new role for universities to play in Europe and in the global context. They want not only to fulfil the role of Research and Education centres, but also something which has not been done for generations: cooperation with industries and non-academic public institutions.
My points may be parallel to those of Professor Mach. I first of all would like to stress the depth and vigour of the impact that changes after 1989 have had, which is often underestimated in the West. Even here on the territory of the former GDR you can hardly appreciate the hardships that came upon the heads of citizens. First there was this huge isolation, for example the famous oil shock of the 70’s came upon us after the change.
As those of you who are comparative scholars know, comparing means focusing on differences with a view to deepening the analysis. I would like to highlight some differences, first of all between the challenges that European universities in general are facing and the particular challenges of Central and Eastern universities. Secondly, the differences between Central and Eastern universities at the institutional level, at the level of developmental student enrolments and in other respects. Finally, I would like to bring up differences between international models.
My faculty is a little bit older; we celebrated our 10th anniversary a year ago. I would like to share our experiences with you and mention some plusses coming from a University which went through the process of transition.
One of the plusses was that we came along at the right time to get new equipment for the university under European initiatives. My faculty’s buildings are comparable to what you have, and when we have visitors from Humboldt or Britain they are impressed, saying, “we wish we had something like that.”
The discussion has been summarised to highlight key points. Every attempt has been made to reflect the spirit of the debate. Where it is helpful, contributors to the debate have been identified.